Edward Frankland

Edward Frankland

Sir Edward Frankland, KCB, FRS (January 18, 1825 – August 9, 1899) was a chemist, one of the foremost of his day. [cite book | last = Russell | first = Colin A. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Lancastrian Chemist: The Early Years of Sir Edward Frankland | publisher = Open University Press | year = 1986 | location = Milton Keynes | pages = | url = | doi = | id = ] He was an expert in water quality and analysis, and originated the concept of combining power, or valence, in chemistry. He was also one of the originators of organometallic chemistry.


Edward Frankland was born in Lancaster, England. After attending Lancaster Royal Grammar School, he spent six years as an apprentice to a druggist in that town. In 1845 he became an assistant at the chemical laboratory of the British Geological Survey in London. The laboratory was directed by Lyon Playfair, who had been a student of Justus Liebig in Germany. In 1847, coming under the influence of the philosopher Robert Owen, Frankland accepted a post as science-master at Queenwood College, Hampshire, a college founded by Robert Owen. The college had also hired John Tyndall as a teacher the same year. Frankland and Tyndall became friends and soon they both decided to go to Germany to further their education in science. The better German universities were judged best in the world in chemistry and physics at the time. In 1848 Frankland and Tyndall went together to the University of Marburg and studied there until 1851. Robert Bunsen was an influential teacher at Marburg at the time. Returning to Britain in 1851, Frankland became professor of chemistry at a newly established school now known as the University of Manchester. In 1857 he became lecturer in chemistry at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, and in 1863 professor of chemistry at the Royal Institution, London, where he remained for the rest of his career. The Royal Institution was a government-financed research institution. It was not a teaching institution. For two decades Frankland also had a teaching role at the nearby Royal School of Mines.

Edward Frankland was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1853 and awarded the Society's Royal Medal in 1857 and its Copley Medal in 1894. He was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1897. He died while on a holiday in Norway, and was buried near his home in Reigate, Surrey. [cite book | last = Russell | first = Colin A. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Edward Frankland: Chemistry, Controversy and Conspiracy in Victorian England | publisher = Cambridge University Press | year = 1996 | location = Cambridge | pages=508 | url = | doi = | id = ]

His son Percy Frankland was also a noted chemist and a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Scientific work

From an early age, Frankland engaged in original research with great success. Analytical problems, such as the isolation of certain organic radicals, attracted his attention at first, but he soon turned to chemical syntheses, and he was only about twenty-five years of age when an investigation, doubtless suggested by the work of his master, Robert Bunsen and Hermann Kolbe, on cacodyl, yielded the interesting discovery of organometallic compounds. After his return to England he achieved the synthesis of diethylzinc and dimethylzinc by the reaction of ethyl iodide and methyl iodide with metallic zinc.

The theoretical deductions Frankland drew from considering these bodies were even more interesting and important than the bodies themselves. Perceiving a molecular isonomy between them and the inorganic compounds of the metals from which they may be formed, Frankland saw their true molecular type in the oxygen, sulfur or chlorine compounds of those metals, from which he held them to be derived by the substitution of an organic group for the oxygen, sulfur, &c. In this way they enabled him to overthrow the theory of conjugate compounds, and they further led him in 1852 to publish the conception that the atoms of each elementary substance have a definite saturation capacity, so that they can only combine with a certain limited number of the atoms of other elements. The theory of valency thus founded has dominated the subsequent development of chemical doctrine, and forms the groundwork upon which the fabric of modern structural chemistry reposes.

In applied chemistry Frankland's great work was in connection with water-supply. Appointed a member of the second royal commission on the pollution of rivers in 1868, he was provided by the government with a completely-equipped laboratory, in which, for a period of six years, he carried on the inquiries necessary for the purposes of that body, and was thus the means of bringing to light an enormous amount of valuable information respecting the contamination of rivers by sewage, trade-refuse, &c., and the purification of water for domestic use. In 1865, when he succeeded August Wilhelm von Hofmann at the School of Mines, he undertook the duty of making monthly reports to the registrar-general on the character of the water supplied to London, and these he continued down to the end of his life. At one time he was an unsparing critic of its quality, but in later years he became strongly convinced of its general excellence and wholesomeness.

Frankland's analyses were both chemical and bacteriological, and his dissatisfaction with the processes in vogue for the former at the time of his appointment caused him to spend two years in devising new and more accurate methods. In 1859 Frankland passed a night on the very top of Mont Blanc in company with John Tyndall. One of the purposes of the expedition was to discover whether the rate of combustion of a candle varies with the density of the atmosphere in which it is burnt, a question which was answered in the negative. Other observations made by Frankland at the time formed the starting-point of a series of experiments which yielded far-reaching results. He noticed that at the summit the candle gave a very poor light, and was thereby led to investigate the effect produced on luminous flames by varying the pressure of the atmosphere in which they are burning. He found that pressure increases luminosity, so that hydrogen, for example, the flame of which gives no light in normal circumstances, burns with a luminous flame under a pressure of ten or twenty atmospheres, and the inference he drew was that the presence of solid particles is not the only factor that determines the light-giving power of a flame, Further, he showed that the spectrum of a dense ignited gas resembles that of an incandescent liquid or solid, and he traced a gradual change in the spectrum of an incandescent gas under increasing pressure, the sharp lines observable when it is extremely attenuated broadening out to nebulous bands as the pressure rises, till they merge in the continuous spectrum as the gas approaches a density comparable with that of the liquid state. An application of these results to solar physics in conjunction with Sir Norman Lockyer led to the view that at least the external layers of the sun cannot consist of matter in the liquid or solid forms, but must be composed of gases or vapours.

Frankland and Lockyer were also the discoverers of helium, along with Pierre Jules César Janssen. In 1868 they noticed, in the solar spectrum, a bright yellow line which did not correspond to any substance then known. It was this line which they attributed to the then hypothetical element, helium. This was the first time an element was discovered on an extraterrestrial world before being found on the earth.

Further reading

* [http://books.google.com/books?id=DAt5_kZsXwMC&pg=PA1&dq=edward+frankland&as_brr=1#PPP7,M1 How to teach chemistry] by Edward Frankland (1875)
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=amgDAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA1&dq=edward+frankland&as_brr=1#PPR3,M1 Water analysis for sanitary purposes] by Edward Frankland (1880)


External links

* [http://members.cox.net/ggthomp/edwardfrankland1825.html Brief biography with census records]
* [http://members.cox.net/ggtext/edwardfrankland1825_obit.html Obituary] from "The Times"
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=TCYJAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA237&dq=edward+frankland&as_brr=1#PPA237,M1 "Dictionary of National Biography" (1901)] entry for Edward Frankland
* [http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi2036.htm Audio program, and transcript, about Frankland]
* [http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521545811 Publisher's blurb for a book-length biography of Frankland published in 2003]


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  • Edward Frankland — Sir Edward Frankland (18 janvier 1825 9 août 1899) est un chimiste britannique. Biographie Frankland naît à Churchtown, près de Lancaster. Après ses études secondaires à la Lancaster Royal Grammar School, il est …   Wikipédia en Français

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  • Frankland — Frankland, Edward, Chemiker, geb. 18. Jan. 1825 in Churchtown bei Lancaster, gest. 9. Aug. 1899 in Norwegen, studierte in London, Marburg und Gießen, wurde 1851 Professor der Chemie in Manchester und 1865 an der Royal school of mines und der… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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  • Frankland — Frankland, sir Edward …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Frankland —   [ fræȖklənd], Sir (seit 1897) Edward, britischer Chemiker, * Churchtown (bei Lancaster) 18. 1. 1825, ✝ auf einer Reise in Norwegen 9. 8. 1899; Professor in Manchester und London; entdeckte die metallorganischen Verbindungen und schuf den… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Frankland , Sir Edward — (1825–1899) British organic chemist Born at Churchtown near Lancaster, Frankland was first apprenticed to a pharmacist in Lancaster; he was later encouraged to go to London to study chemistry under Lyon Playfair at the Royal College of Engineers… …   Scientists

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